During the latter part of the last decade, at a time when secondary school specialisms were all the rage, Lyndon School in Solihull; having already established itself as a humanities college, began to explore its strategic aim of becoming a Foundation School with a Trust.
How it started and why
Whereas, going for academy status was seen to be totally inappropriate, the rationale for Lyndon pursuing an application for Foundation status was underpinned by a corporate commitment of having an outward-looking approach to community cohesion. At the heart of the model was the single desire to raise the aspirations of the students and community, particularly those from working class backgrounds.
A specifically chosen federation of potential partners was approached and invited to join the school in this exciting phase of its development. The newly established consortium of local stakeholders from manufacturing, retail, commerce, further and higher education backed by the local authority began the preparatory work which resulted in the school converting to Foundation status in January 2009.
The conversion process
The process of conversion itself was started by an entrepreneurial chairman of governors and headteacher with the submission of a comprehensive Expressions of Interest for approval by the Department for Education. This was followed by an intensive consultation process with staff, parents, governors, local authority and the wider community.
It was an nervous time for staff and once Trust Status was finally approved there was a substantial amount of work to do to win over the hearts and minds of staff, as well as to bring the vision to reality.
While there was some apprehension of what Foundation status would actually mean a common conviction remained among all stakeholders. Everyone was convinced that the formation of the Trust would place the school in a commanding position to provide a continuum in provision through all educational phases that would support, nurture and empower young people to fulfil their potential.
This vision has truly been brought to life. Since inception a series of meaningful projects has resulted in a curriculum that not only excites, but which provides clear progression routes to further/higher education, employment, Apprenticeships or training.
After only three years in close partnership with Birmingham City University, Jaguar Land Rover, John Lewis Partnership, Sixth Form College Solihull, McCann Erickson and Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, the Trust can demonstrate that it has been able to strengthen curriculum provision, leadership and management and evidence the impact on improving a broad range of outcomes for young people.
The undeniable success has prompted further plans to engage additional Trust partners who will add both further vitality and widen sector coverage.
What are the benefits?
When the school is discussing potential curriculum-based projects with a Trust partner, there is a strong emphasis on improving outcomes for young people and projects are planned around how these outcomes can be achieved.
At grass-roots level curriculum projects are designed to enhance the learning experience and aid in the development of spiritual, moral, social and cultural outcomes for young people.
While there is an undeniable focus on improving outcomes, joint projects are also beneficial to Trust partner organisations too. An example of one such project was with Jaguar Land Rover.
For one unit of their GCSE product design course, students focused on sustainability in the manufacturing process, and the recycling practices at Land Rover provided them with an excellent platform to base their learning around. To highlight the joint commitment of Land Rover and Lyndon School to recycling, 16 year 10 students created two albatross sculptures from recyclable plastic materials; which they presented to Land Rover.
“We are delighted with the sculptures,” said Peter Gray, manufacturing manager north works at Land Rover, “the students have shown amazing creativity using these recyclable plastics to make such beautiful pieces. We are proud of our recycling programme and are pleased that Lyndon students have been able to use the information about our systems, and can cite our real-life business example in order to support their GCSE course.”
The project had a big impact on the students involved: “The film about the albatross shocked us, seeing how rubbish collects in the Pacific Ocean and how these albatrosses suffer so much,” said Becky Tovey, one of the students involved.
“We think it’s excellent that Land Rover has such an extensive recycling programme, and if everyone managed their waste responsibly, there wouldn’t be a problem of rubbish in the ocean. We’re going to have a drive at school to recycle even better than we do now, encouraging more students to recycle their plastic drink bottles and cans in special recycling bins.”
Whatever the industry, our Trust partners, both existing and prospective, are always conscious about adding value and work closely with the school to ensure changes on the educational landscape, both locally and nationally, are appropriately reflected in their activities.
A Trust partner’s perspective
Chairman of the Trust Board, Gary Tourell, the lead process area manager for Land Rover Solihull, said that engaging with community projects helps to build relationships and bring communities closer together.
He continued: “This view point is heavily supported and encouraged by Jaguar Land Rover, which partners up with one local school close to each of its UK sites. We also engage around 20,000 young people each year in visits to our Education Business Partnership Centres and at least 180,000 youngsters participate in national STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) challenges, which encourage students to consider manufacturing and engineering careers.
“In practice, all you need to have is a clear vision and an abundance of enthusiasm. Any organisation has the potential to work in partnership and make a positive contribution to their local school, adding both value and promoting community cohesion.”
He said that in forming and maintaining relationships, the following have been key to the success of the Trust:
Having a single point of contact from both the school and Jaguar Land Rover.
Enthusiasm to make a partnership work can never be underestimated. Corporate responsibility is supported by volunteers and there is no shortage of willing employees who want our communities to succeed.
Having a chairman of governors and senior leadership team who understand the legal framework is essential. Translating quite complex rules in a relatively simple way to potential Trust partners is essential to securing buy-in.
Demonstrating the mutual benefits is important. Show what you can do for prospective partners as well as detailing what they could do for you. You will be surprised what we can learn from tomorrow’s workforce!
Be realistic in what can be achieved; start small and then let your imagination flow!
Gary continued: “A Trust Board (made up of member directors) is a formal, legally binding arrangement, but don’t let this put you off. Get it right and you have the potential to contribute to the achievement of a common shared goal of improving aspirations of local communities and bringing about improvements that will inevitably improve the future economic prosperity of communities across the country.”
The success of the Lyndon model has reached far and wide; in addition to local recognition, in 2011 the Trust took part in a series of national case studies and conferences organised by the SSAT.
If you have considered setting up a Trust, then we cannot recommend it highly enough. Three years on since becoming a Foundation school with a Trust, the school has delivered its best ever results. There is a renewed sense of optimism; building on what has already been achieved as well as exploring new opportunities with new partners.
The opportunities that are provided ensure the school is unique and in a commanding position to deliver better outcomes for the students and families it serves.
Further information: What is a Trust School?Trust schools are state-funded foundation schools which receive extra support (usually non-monetary) from a charitable trust made up of partners working together for the benefit of the school. Achieving trust status is one way in which maintained schools can formalise their relationship with their partners. Trust status can help schools ensure that their partners are committed to the success of the school for the long term, helping to shape its strategic vision and ethos. Any maintained school – primary, secondary or special schools – can become a trust school. Trust schools remain local authority-maintained.
Abid Butt is associate headteacher at Lyndon School in Solihull.